So great there are Advocators for our Military!
This information from https://responsiblestatecraft.org/…/defending-the…/is deemed reliable not guaranteed.
#responsiblestatecraft, #housearmedservicescommittee,#armedforceshousingadvocates,#militaryfamily,#bluestarreport, #securefamiliesinitiative,#kingsbay,#grotonct,#militarylife,#militaryspouse,#PCSing,#virginiabeach,#bermenton,
Defending the nation while desperate for a decent place to live
A housing crisis is hitting all Americans, but that’s no excuse for the US government to leave its military families struggling like this.
JUNE 28, 2022
Servicemembers and their families are the foundation of our national defense, yet today they are struggling to find affordable housing without cutting expenses — like food, gas, and utilities. As one military spouse charged, “we are serving our country and going into debt for it.” Advocates say the military doesn’t have enough housing on bases and the housing market outside is so high that inflation is driving families further away for work and/or causing them to live paycheck to paycheck and forgoing basic necessities. This is a crisis across America, but the difference here is that the U.S government is their employer. And there seems to be more than enough tax dollars in the Pentagon budget to go around when it comes to expensive weapons systems — many of which cost too much, still don’t work right, or are discarded before their time. “Well-trained and compensated people are the real backbone of our defense capabilities, and neglecting them undermines our ability to provide the greatest possible security at the lowest cost,” said William D. Hartung, Pentagon expert at the Quincy Institute and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. “We need to spend more on military families and less on overpaid contractors and their CEOs.” Earlier this month, Responsible Statecraft reported that military families were facing “food insecurity,” which is defined by the USDA as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” Much of the problem, experts inside and outside the military say, is due to the expensive housing situation. “Families that were barely making ends meet, living off base, are now having to limit the basic needs of living,” said Sergio Rodriguez, co-chair of Armed Forces Housing Advocates, an advocacy group for military families living in privatized military housing. The NDAA FY 2023, approved last Wednesday by the House Armed Services Committee, proposed increasing the military budget by $37 billion. The proposal includes a pay raise for service members, improved oversight of military family housing projects, and a required report about improving BAH calculations. These changes demonstrate awareness of the challenges facing military families but they are not enough and won’t come quick enough for families struggling right now. “The Defense budget isn’t particularly built for year-to-year agility in a lot of areas, including housing for frequent movers trying to keep up with the drastic surge in real estate,” said Col. Chris Reid, Air Force officer and military fellow at the CSIS International Security Program “The market extremes we’re seeing today highlight the importance of having real-time assessments and the budgetary agility to respond.” As inflation is “moving at the fastest pace in more than four decades,” military families are moving too. But their finances can’t keep up. About 65 percent of families undertake a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move right now, during the summer. “That’s also when the housing market is most expensive,” said Jennifer Akin — Senior Director of Policy and Social Impact Research Blue Star Families. “But military families don’t have agency in the decision, unlike civilians who can choose if they are going to sell their house or which market they’re going to go into.” Monica Bassett, 2022 AFI Army Spouse of the Year, said that on her street of 10 families, five are moving this summer, Including her own. Bassett says that because of limits on what the movers could pack, she had to buy everything from shampoo to medications to cleaning supplies. “A few trips to Target can come out with a one thousand dollar bill,” Basset said. She notes that the moving costs are different for every family but says that hers will cost a couple thousand dollars. This cost is exacerbated by inflation and because her family of four will be living in a hotel for the next six weeks as they wait for their housing to be ready. This means that they will have frequent additional expenses, such as eating out. In 2021, “two-thirds of active-duty family respondents reported unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses related to their last PCS move,” according to a Blue Star Families report. More than half of them reported that these expenses exceeded $1,000. “Now imagine that every one to three years,” Bassett says. “People moving into Fort Riley say they have used all their money just to get there, ” Bassett noted.“We’re serving our country and going into debt for doing it.” In 2020, 64 percent of active-duty military families lived off base. They receive compensation for housing in the form of a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) which is designed to cover 95 percent of off-base housing costs — the other 5 percent comes out of pocket. According to a recent Forbes article, “housing supply is near a historic low, with 51 percent fewer homes on the market today compared with May 2019.” And mortgage rates today are nearly double that of January. Col. Reid faced the possibility of a PCS this summer. He said he was surprised to find the same property he rented as a captain on previous orders going for $1,200 over his current BAH as a colonel. He could only find six available four-bedroom properties in the new area for his family of five near the base, and believes options for junior enlisted families are incredibly limited. Akin said that data coming in for this year’s military lifestyle survey shows many military families can’t find housing in their price range close to the base — so they are moving farther and farther away. And even a 45-minute commute adds up quickly. “That’s 16.25 days that you are no longer with your family,” said Akin. “which of course is a big deal for military families.” This commute is also a financial stressor — with gas prices at $1.89 more per gallon than they were a year ago. “When we lived in California in 2020, my wife commuted 86 miles each way,” said Sergio Rodriguez, Navy Spouse of the Year. Rodriguez said that they were spending $150 to $200 a week on gas in 2019. “I can’t imagine how it is in this current climate,” he said. “Some families living off-base are having utilities cut off due to lack of money,” said Rodriguez. “Families are facing challenges of who to pay and what to pay to keep afloat.” Reid said he believes the current market is driving even more demand for on-base housing to mitigate these financial concerns. Unfortunately there is a waitlist at most bases. Reid said he had seen a waitlist for MacDill AFB over one year, though timelines vary for different pay grades and family sizes. Rodriquez said at his base, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, their wait is six months to a year. According to the Blue Star report, 48 percent of active-duty family respondents report that their financial situation causes them “some stress” or a “great deal of stress.” All of these issues with a 2022 military defense budget of $782 billion? “The defense industrial complex would have us believe that pumping billions of dollars into shiny new weapons systems is the total and complete answer,” said Sarah Streyder, military spouse and Executive Director of the Secure Families Initiative. “But if we can’t even afford to put quality food on the table for our service families – who risk life and limb to make those weapons systems functional, I may add – then something is extremely warped about our Pentagon budget priorities.” Half or more of the Pentagon’s annual budget goes to weapons contractors and the top five alone split over $150 billion in FY 2020. And yet military spouses, active service members, and security analysts alike agree that not taking care of our service members poses a national security threat – potentially defeating the point of all this military spending. Elizabeth Field, Director of the Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office, said that GAO reports have pointed out the connection to readiness from concerns related to the condition of housing. She said reports have anecdotally found some service members are leaving the military because of concerns with housing. Field also said some service members reported that worries about their housing also made it harder to focus on the mission at hand. Reid puts it simply: “How ready are folks to deploy if their family is not taken care of?” He adds, “You want to start a deployment with a sound foundation back home. Folks will leave the military if they’re unable to take care of themselves and their families.” Military families have loved ones who have signed up to risk their lives to protect our nation. In times of financial challenge, shouldn’t they be the most protected, not the most affected? As Streyder told Responsible Statecraft, “It’s become too easy for policymakers and voters to push for war and other hawkish policies without accounting for the hidden costs of those choices.”